When the Puritans lived in England they were persecuted for their religious beliefs. The Church of England prohibited them from worshipping in their own way. There was no debate about the validity of the Puritans' doctrine. They were considered heretics by the absolute power and authority of the Church, exercising the power of the Status Quo.
The Church of England believed in Christianity. But was it the teaching of their founder to persecute others, lock them up and take away their freedom simply because their beliefs were different? In this case, if they had cared to see, their own professed beliefs would have acted as a mirror to expose their hypocrisy and evil.
Given the chance to resettle in America the Puritans took it. If they had stayed in England, the Church would have destroyed them because they were small in number and did not have the support from the general populace at the time.
What happened to the Puritans and their choice to settle in America set in motion a wave of determination so great it not only became the driving force of the development and character of American society but it also became the impetus for the spreading of human rights and democracy worldwide.
Now the seed was planted and from that time on the given right of the individual to stand up and defend himself against any force or system that would subdue his rights was set in motion. This phenomenon where noble ideals continue to rise up even from the ashes of our own indignities is uniquely American. The fact that we continually champion the cause for individual rights under any circumstances is what makes our struggle so important to the world's social structure and its future.
As time continued, many other people came to this country, some for political reasons, some to escape prosecution and persecution, some for economic reasons, and many were forced to come here and be sold as slaves. Soon many different colonies were formed containing people from all parts of the globe, but still the English maintained an oppressive social and economic grip over the colonies. The colonists were an independent lot and there was no way they accepted the Church of England or the aristocratic social structure as something they could embrace.
This became apparent in the War of Independence, which produced documents such as the Declaration of Independence and eventually the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These would confirm that the foundation of the country was the focus on individual freedom. This was a far cry from a monarch and aristocracy where the people were neither empowered by charter or even given the right to hold their own leaders accountable for their actions. Through this struggle a government was formed by the people and for the people where the leaders would be directly accountable to the people.
This right is of central importance because it truly defines the core of our social and ethical system, which had set us apart from the rest of the world. The Constitution provided the separation of Church and State. Now the government became the blanket under which all people could have their own beliefs, the freedom to speak out without fear of backlash from any group, religious institution or the government itself.
This is in direct concurrence with the spirit and teaching of the True Buddha where the integrity of the individual is to be cherished and protected. These documents would be the foundation for the rights of each individual and would be the blocks of a new emerging civilization where the people are empowered to keep those who are in positions of authority in check, in other words, to keep the status quo in check.
With the appearance of Lincoln the status quo was challenged again and an institution that had supported social injustice was challenged by the integrity of the Bill of Rights and out of the indignity of slavery rose out of the ashes, the Emancipation Proclamation. Again the status quo was put in check by our sacred doctrines and the people who chose to speak out, protect and honor them. The gap between the doctrines of the people and their actions now became smaller.
Throughout the twentieth century it gathered momentum, drawing into its vortex all manner of movements: women's rights, civil rights, workers' rights, gay rights - the list goes on and the roar gets louder. The strength of the people to rise to the occasion incessantly continues, for the seed planted two hundred years ago in the American psyche honoring the integrity of life and the individual must come to bloom. This is our destiny that is what truly defines us as American.
America remains the great enigma to the rest of the world. How can a country that is so young give birth to a process that is so profound and so advanced? The answer lies in the fact that all countries in the world throughout history except America are homogenous where the system's main stress had been on the group, not the individual. Within these systems many individuals have had to sacrifice themselves to save the group or save face of the community even at the expense of their own integrity. An individual in those systems rarely questions authority and in the rare cases that it happens, the person finds himself cut off or ostracized from the community where the social trends acquiescing to authority is the only acceptable behavior to keep the society unified and in harmony.
In this land, no group or authorities can ever silence the people from speaking out for change or standing up against injustice to the people. This process will never cease. Only you can have the choice to exercise this right and etch your life in glorious victory for all the people. This is your choice, your privilege, and not an obligation.
America knows how to put the status quo in check. This is our nature. It is in our blood. It is what keeps our hearts pure. We have taken the bold step to honor the enlightenment and the development of the individual as the key building block to a new global civilization.